Marine Corps set to field resupply drones to all logistics battalions by 2028

Marine Corps set to field resupply drones to all logistics battalions by 2028

The Marine Corps will send small logistics drones to every logistics battalion in the service by 2028, officials said at the Modern Day Marine conference—part of the Corps’ overall plan to make its units lighter and harder-to-hit for any future fights. 

Marine Corps Logistics battalions will get three to six of the Tactical Resupply Unmanned Aircraft System, or TRUAS, drones, said Chuck Stouffer, an systems engineer who works on TRUAS development. 

The TRUAS drone, also known as the TRV-150C, can carry around 150 pounds up to nine miles. The drones are intended to supply troops with emergency rations—ammunition or water in environments where an enemy’s missiles or artillery would make it too risky to send in vehicles. The drone is already fielded in small numbers. 

Ukraine and Russia both use autonomous vehicles for resupplying troops in areas where the risk of drone or artillery strikes makes it difficult to safely bring supplies to them. Ukraine has even used drones to evacuate wounded soldiers, amid Russian attacks on ambulances and aid points. And the Marine Corps used Kaman unmanned helicopters with 50-foot rotorspans to resupply remote outposts in Afghanistan.

The TRUAS is “designed for the Marine,” rather than for specialized drone pilots, Stouffer said. Logistics Marines can learn to operate the drone in just a few days, with piloting consisting of setting waypoints on the military’s ATAK app, an open-source Android-based tool. 

The Corps will eventually field larger, medium-lift drones capable of carrying up to 600 pounds a range of 25 nautical miles or more, with Leidos and Kaman set to trial options in summer. 

The experience of getting the TRUAS certified for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration will help “expedite” the fielding of the heavier medium-lift drone, Stouffer said. 

The process of fielding TRUAS is also helping military installation officials get more experienced with the techniques and procedures for training with logistics drones, added Greg Skinner, program manager for Navy and Marine Corps small tactical uncrewed aerial systems (UAS). 

“The policy complexity outweighs the technical complexities,” Skinner said. “By the time the [medium-lift drone arrives], it’s just going to be, ‘park it over there’.” 

The Corps has yet to decide what qualifications will be necessary to pilot the medium-lift drone, Skinner said. Kaman’s Kargo drone, a competitor for the medium-lift drone, is closer in size to a small helicopter than a commercial drone, weighing in at 1,300 pounds without its load.

The Marine Corps hopes to eventually field logistics drones capable of hauling thousands of pounds of gear, Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney previously told Defense One. 

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